Inkwell |Environment Issue | March 2020

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Inkwell ANNIE WRIGHT UPPER SCHOOL

MARCH 2020

The

Environment Issue


Letter from the editors Climate change is the focus of conversations around the world, particularly among the youth. With this issue, Inkwell covers various facets of the many conversations surrounding environmental concerns. From endangered species to the impacts of a potential LNG plant in Tacoma, this issue explores a wide range of environmental issues that have wide reaching consequences but are close to home. Articles in this issue also go in depth into sustainability in the dorms and the declining orca population in Washington state. This issue also touches on how, on an individual and national level, efforts are being made to address environmental concerns, with sustainable alternatives to everyday items and governments incentivizing sustainability. With this issue, we hope to celebrate, confront and discuss the significance of the environment.

ANNIE WRIGHT UPPER SCHOOL

Inkwell MARCH 2020

827 North Tacoma Avenue Tacoma, WA 98403 inkwell@aw.org | 253-272-2216 Issue 3 | Volume 60 EDITOR IN CHIEF Abby Givens PRINT EDITOR YoungSeo Jo ONLINE EDITOR Julia Henning ARTS & ENVIORNMENT EDITOR Gabrielle Krieger

Enjoy!

NEWS EDITOR Jade Cheatham

Abby Givens Editor-in-Chief

SPORTS EDITOR Kaitlin Tan

YoungSeo Jo Print Editor

cover photo by Daniel Wang This Oregon waterfall was captured with a mirrorless camera with a wide angle lens.

REPORTERS Parker Briggs Sebastian Bush Lauren Cook Sofia Guerra Reagan Easter Emily Simons Inkwell aims to provide the Annie Wright community with dependable and engaging coverage of school, community and global topics. Inkwell publishes articles of all genres weekly at anniewrightinkwell.org as well as four themed magazines during the course of the school year. Submissions of articles and photographs, correction requests and signed letters to the editor are most welcome. Please email the editors at inkwell@aw.org. All published submissions will receive credits and bylines.

anniewrightinkwell.org


Contents

Inkwell witnessed a humpback whale breaching off the coast of San Juan Island in September. Photo by YoungSeo Jo.

Consumers - the ultimate scapegoat? Endangered species: the bigger picture No to greenwashing Not your average bushfire Uh-oh...where did the coho salmon go? Native species make your lawn truly green

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What's so hot about environmental science? Students show increasing interest in the major and career by Julia Henning Emily Muehlenkamp tested water at Crystal Springs during a field trip for her IB Environmental Systems and Societies course earlier this year. Photo by Gabrielle Krieger.

In recent years, higher education has seen a large increase in students majoring in environmental science. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the STEM field, majors from environmental science are the most employed out of college by a number that continues to grow by 5% a year. Environmental science studies the Earth’s resources and the effects of human-made technology on the quality of life. This can include studying carbon dioxide levels, toxic chemicals, radioactivity, endangered species and more. It originally stemmed from studying natural history and medicine during the Enlightenment. For many Annie Wright students, the Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS) course from the International Baccalaureate program is a launching pad for further study in ecology. The course focuses on a wide range of studies in the realm of science. For junior Emily Muhlenkamp, environmental science is a very interdisciplinary academic field. “I personally see ties between many of my IB classes that are a part of my interest

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in environmental science,” she said. “For example, there have been many connections to Spanish, Global Politics, Biology, and ESS that have all led to more overarching environmental themes. Generally, I think that environmental

"We’re educating the future people that are going to have to make these changes and make the decisions that are going to get us back on the right course." science interests me so much because I know that I could possibly leave this world in a better state than when I entered, or at least make a change towards that goal.”

The College of the Environment at the University of Washington in Seattle hands out the second highest number of majors in their environmental science program, which includes eight majors, every year in the US. Barbara Owens, Undergraduate Student Services Specialist in the College of the Environment, spoke of the study’s importance. “A lot of us feel as if you’re our only hope,” she said. "Environmental science spans a lot of different issues and different types of science, so our hope is really that we’re educating the future people that are going to have to make these changes and make the decisions that are going to get us back on the right course.” Going into a career after receiving an environmental science degree can take many forms. According to environmentalscience.org, 22% of graduates work for the government, while another 21% work as scientific and technical consultants for private companies. In addition to these, other examples of common jobs for graduates of the major include biochemist, chemical engineer, environmental activist, government regulator, pollution engineer and toxicologist. 1

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Consumers: the ultimate scapegoat? by Gabrielle Krieger Stop blaming the consumers for corporate consumption. Graphic by Gabrielle Krieger.

In a time when climate change is a large source of anxiety for many, it’s comforting to make small changes to live more sustainably. Yet, when we focus our energy into reusable straws and bags and accept that we’ve done our part for the planet, we lose the momentum that instead could be used to fuel large-scale change. Such satisfaction in small actions can breed passivity when our duties are far from over. While making individual changes has merit in the statement it makes on the bottom lines of corporations, we shouldn’t shame people who don’t have the resources to make these changes. It’s also important to not forget about other valuable methods of influencing change. The idea that climate change is the fault and responsibility of individual consumers, many of whom don’t have the privilege of affording sustainable alternatives, shifts the blame off governments and companies who hold the real power to stop it. In fact, according to The Guardian, just 100 companies contribute to 71% of climate change. If we could encourage those 100 CEOs to change the way they run their businesses, we’d have a real chance of stopping global warming before irreparable damage is done.

In the 1950s, companies actually started the original antipollution campaigns, not to help the environment, but to help themselves. According to the National Public Radio, they

"There is power in numbers and demanding that those in charge consider their actions"

started encouraging people to stop polluting so consumers would be held responsible for pollution and companies wouldn’t have to change the materials they produce. Accepting that sustainability is completely the responsibility of individual consumers only perpetuates the same narrative corporations have always spun. Even if it seems like most of us don’t have the power to make immediate changes with big impacts, there is power in numbers and demanding that those in charge consider their actions. Instead of scattered attempts at individual sustainability, coordinated actions such as protests would be far more effective.

Companies have been using tactics to avoid blame on environmental damages longer than many people think.

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Endangered species: the bigger picture article and photo by Sebastian Bush

Somatochlora Hineana, a common species of dragonfly, is endangered. With less than 30,000 left, the situation is becoming dire.

Inkwell interviewed tropical biologist and environment policy expert Cristián Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, to find out more. The Wildlife Conservation Society is an international NGO whose mission is to save wildlife by conserving the world’s largest wild places. Samper was previously director of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. One of the main theories behind mass extinction is climate change. Another significant factor to extinction is cows. According to Samper, creating grasslands for cows eats up into natural spaces, therefore hurting species. In addition, the resulting methane from all of the cows can worsen the production of greenhouse gasses.

How bad is it really? In past history there have been five major extinctions: the Ordovician Mass Extinction, Devonian Mass Extinction, Permian Mass Extinction, Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction and Cretaceous-Tertiary

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Mass Extinction. When asked whether he thought we were in the sixth extinction, Samper replied, “Many people think we are. The rate of extinction is faster now than at any other point in human history.” According to the World Wildlife Foundation’s website, the populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians have seen a 60% decline in just over 40 years. Samper also emphasized the decline in species. “A UN report (based on the IPBES) predicts that as many as one million species will be threatened,” he said. To put that in perspective, that is almost one in ten species on the globe.

Why should we care? One of those species in question is the tiger. “We estimate there used to be almost 100,000 tigers in the world a hundred years ago, Samper said. “There are now less than four thousand.” He also mentioned frogs. “The largest number of endangered species are frogs. There are six hundred species of frog, and almost half of them are threatened.”

indigenous people. “Many of these species are species that are critical for livelihoods [of] many indigenous communities that depend on animals,” Samper said. Indigenous people rely on animals for food, clothing and much more.

How can we help? According to Samper, eating fewer endangered animals is the biggest way to help. Although many of us rarely consume threatened species, according to a 2019 article from The Guardian, many species are being eaten to death. One example is the pangolin, which the Guardian article claims is “the world’s most trafficked wild mammal.” According to the article, more than a million pangolins are thought to have been killed for food and medicine since 2000. All eight species are now endangered. According to Samper, another way to help is to support local organizations like the Point Defiance Zoo and national and international organizations like the Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund.

Right now, it may seem inconsequential, but many endangered species impact

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Governments Incentivize Sustainability by Abby Givens

and Uganda in 2018. “Kenya is the most strict in the world,” said Eguiguren. According to Eguiguren, a person will be fined $40,000 or sentenced to four years in prison if they use a plastic bag.

Making bags out of large plastic banners at Pinta Vida, a community service group in Maputo, Mozambique, supports women with HIV/AIDS. Photo by Andres Eguiguren from the Global Issues Service Summitt in 2011.

While plastic bags are not banned in China, in Yu’s home city of Nanjing, consumers are required to buy plastic bags at grocery stores. As a result of that government effort, Yu said, “I normally don’t see that many plastic bags...if people decide to buy a plastic bag, people tend to stuff a lot of things [in the bag].”

Of the many actors on the global stage working to address climate change, governments have some of the most influence. Inkwell interviewed two Upper School teachers who have lived and worked internationally about these efforts. Andres Eguiguren, Upper School for Boys Global Politics teacher, spoke of efforts in Eastern Africa and Japan, and Luna Yu, Upper School for Girls Chinese teacher, spoke about China’s sustainability efforts.

The effectiveness of government efforts surrounding sustainability must also take into account social norms and their citizens' priorities. Yu said that since China is still a developing country, in the past and in present-day rural areas, people “just worry about bringing food to their table.” In big cities, where people tend to be more affluent, Yu said people are more cognizant of sustainability issues.

Eguiguren characterized East African governments’ main efforts to incentivize sustainability as “punitive.” Specifically, he cited banning consumer goods like plastic bags. Rwanda banned them in 2008, Kenya in 2017, Tanzania in 2017,

In East Africa, Eguiguren noted that the environmental footprint is very small in comparison to developed countries like the United States, yet they are still very aware of the pollution in their area, such as the plastic bags on their beaches that

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get into the ocean. “Almost by default, they’re going to be more into reusing, recycling... redeveloping things,” he said. He also mentioned youth conventions that focus on the environment. “I would say that the youth in Africa are aware of these issues,” he said. In Japan, a developed country, the culture surrounding waste is dominated by the idea of mottainai, which Eguiguren defined as “it would be a waste to throw something away.” This manifests itself particularly in cities like Tokyo in which Eguiguren says people simply give away things they no longer need rather than throwing them away. In the city “you never see trash,” there’s “no trash cans anywhere... the culture is you take your trash home.” Yet, in Japanese stores, Eguiguren said, “everything... is heavily packaged... every single cookie will be individually wrapped.” It is this excessive packaging that likely contributes to Japan being second only to the United States in being the largest generators of plastic packaging waste per capita, according to Eguiguren. Yet despite this, Japan accounts for a relatively small amount of leaked single-use plastics in the environment. This can largely be attributed to their sophisticated waste collection system. Different days are designated for different types of waste. For example, big pots and pans could be assigned the first Monday of the month. And it is only on that assigned day, according to Eguiguren, that that certain good will be picked up. Similarly, in China, there is a rather complex waste categorization process. “Starting in summer 2019, Shanghai had

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this very strict regulation for... waste categorization,” Yu said. There is an app to reference so people put their waste in the right place, and there is personnel at waste dropoff locations that advise and monitor. According to Yu, if waste isn’t disposed of properly, people will be fined. But complex waste disposal systems also have their drawbacks. According to Eguiguren, “If someone has an old TV or washing machine and they can’t be bothered to pay [to recycle it], they’ll go to a little forest area and chuck it.” This brings into question the effectiveness of government programs and policies that are put in place with the intent of making the city more sustainable.

Reducing and managing plastic waste is only one part of the equation when it comes to making a country more sustainable. Carbon emissions are a huge problem, and Japan’s Kei cars are addressing it. The Kei car is boxy and fuelefficient with its small engine. Because of their energy efficiency, the government has provided tax breaks as well as lower mandatory inspection prices, incentivizing consumers to purchase them. That lower cost has made them very popular, according to Eguiguren. “There are more Kei cars on the streets than regular-sized cars,” he said. This popularity has remained even after some of those tax breaks were pulled away in 2014.

In China, a large producer of carbon emissions is coal plants. Yu’s husband is from an area in China with many coal production factories. In conversation with his parents, she learned that the government closed several coal factories in the past two to three years. “They can feel a significant change in terms of the air over the past two years,” she said. While not all government efforts described by Eguiguren and Yu can be characterized as incentivization, they are nevertheless actions governments are taking to reduce their negative environmental impact, some to significant effect.

Purses and bags made out of plastic bags at Chikumbuso in Lusaka. Photo by Andres Eguiguren from the Global Issues Service Summit in 2010 in Zambia.

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article and graphic by Sofia Guerra

common greenwashing phrases

Greenwashing stems from the term whitewashing, which means to cover up unpleasantries or sweep undesirable facts under the carpet. It is the name pop culture has given to the act of selling fake sustainability to the public. Its usage is becoming more prominent as climate change has become more of a discussion topic as well. Greenwashing often includes meaningless seals of approval, vague phrases like “cruelty free,� or sometimes even just green packaging or a green leaf on the corner of a label. One common example of greenwashing is a note card in a hotel room asking guests to make a sustainable choice and reuse their sheets and towels. On the surface, this may seem like an environmentally conscious PSA, but in reality, the hotel is simply benefiting from reduced laundry costs. Companies and businesses are often motivated to greenwash by the esteem and popularity sustainability entails. If consumers are led to believe a brand is eco-friendly, then they may be more inclined to buy and advertise the product. Greenwashing, in regards to marketing, can be both strategic and lucrative. In order to discourage greenwashing, sustainability needs to be incentivized so the practice is no longer viewed as beneficial. One way to do this is through investments. In any socially responsible investment process, one of the first steps is to ensure the money is going only to companies that the investor wants to support. When it comes to investing for sustainability, the screening process may seem obvious:

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Green grants Fighting greenwashing with investment


Examples of greenwashing 1) Volkswagen’s “Clean Diesel” line

In 2015, car manufacturer Volkswagen launched a line of cars claiming to use “clean diesel”, a more ‘sustainable’ type of fuel. However, upon investigation, it was exposed that Volkswagen had rigged 11 million of its cars with “defeat devices” that cheated emissions tests. In reality, these vehicles were in violation of the EPA’s Clean Air Act, established.

2) Nestlé’s “sustainably sourced” cocoa

In April of 2019, a major court case alleged that food company Nestlé’s claims of “sustainably” sourcing their cocoa in chocolate products was a false statement. The file alleges that Nestlé is aware “that two-thirds of its chocolate supply is tainted with child labor and/or child slave labor.”

3) Rainforest Alliance Certified sticker

For decades, the Rainforest Alliance Certified stamp of approval has been slapped on to an innumerable amount of products, legitimizing their claims of sustainability. However, in a 2015 lawsuit, Seattle-based company Water and Sanitation Health is alleging that the Rainforest Alliance Certified standards are in fact far lower than they are marketed to be.

simply cut out any companies with large carbon footprints and focus on propelling the minority of eco-friendly companies in development. This seemingly simple strategy may, however, may be shortsighted. Sandra Forero Bush, Assistant Head of Schools and Business teacher at Annie Wright Schools, described one of the main issues with screening out companies as being environmentally harmful. “People's initial reactions are, for example, ‘make sure I’m not investing in anything that has fossil fuels.’ So they cut out British Petroleum, and Exxon, and all the big companies, right? And yet, these are the companies that are putting in the most investment and the most effort in moving towards sustainable energy and renewable energy.” Bush pointed out how excluding these companies only makes it more difficult for corporations with the largest impacts to move away from both unsustainable practices and greenwashing. Investing only in companies that practice sustainability may seem like the

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clear choice on the surface, but it is actually counterintuitive to combating greenwashing.

"And yet, [the bigger companies] are putting in the most investment and the most effort in moving towards sustainable energy." Investing in major companies isn’t the only solution. Take, for example, the popular coffee company Starbucks’s latest going-green campaign: the elimination of plastic straws from their cafés. What most people fail to realize is that while this campaign has gained Starbucks much respect and praise, their lids use far more plastic than straws, and their cups are not even recyclable. This practice is, arguably, one of the more dangerous forms of greenwashing: the hidden trade-off. While the company is attempting to move in the direction of becoming more sustainable, they are

doing so in a way that they know will attract publicity (“Reusable straws save turtles!”) and that is far less helpful than they would like their consumers to know. In this case, investing with a major company attempting to become more eco-friendly may not be wise. “With Starbucks, there are very problematic things about [their efforts],” said Bush. “And yet, they really are trying. Going back to investments, at what point do you say, ‘but you’re not doing it right - you’re doing these things that seem like they’re working but you’re actually making it worse.’ So, do you take away the investments...or should we try and help [these businesses] change that...based off maybe the twenty or so percent doing it right?” The concept of using investments to discourage greenwashing and promote global sustainability is a nuanced issue. There is no clear-cut answer to this web of problems. As consumers, however, it is always a good idea to research the companies one supports and make an effort to spread awareness and understanding.

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Not your average bushfire article by Reagan Easter photo by Cora Shandrow

The Australian wildfires have burned since the summer of 2019. While bushfires are not uncommon to Australia, there was something vastly different about these fires that had the media’s attention. But perhaps, a little too late. As mentioned, these fires started back in August of 2019, yet they did not gain any news traction until ultimately the media started its coverage when things began pushing the magnitude boundaries of previous bushfires. Inkwell had the opportunity to interview a current citizen and resident of Australia, Belinda Hicks.

Inkwell: While Australian bushfires are a common occurrence, many sources state that this season’s bushfires are unprecedented in damage. In what ways have these fires set themselves apart from your point of view?

Hicks: Social media definitely made a big impact on raising awareness. I think I saw it first on Facebook before the news on tv. People saying what they are going through and seeing their photos makes it easier to relate to. Inkwell: Are you yourself taking any action to help mitigate the impacts of the fire and what ways do you think other people from around the world can do to help?

Inkwell: In what ways have you or anyone you know been impacted by the fires?

Hicks: We normally have bushfires but we have been in drought for so long that this time the fires were out of control. So many fires at the same time and massive areas burning. They use to do yearly burnoffs but they stopped that. I think the government tried to protect the animals and plants by making National Parks. This has caused a lot of buildup of foliage on the ground which leads to more fuel for the fires.

Hicks: We moved to Darwin on the 21st of December just as the fires started near Canberra. We drove six hours before we got out of the smoke. In January, Steve was sent back to Canberra for 3 weeks to coordinate the helicopters to help spot the fires.

Inkwell: The fires have been burning since summer, but it seems like many other parts of the world didn’t quite know the extent of the fires until social media started putting it into the spotlight. How do you think social media has made an impact on raising awareness?

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Hicks: We have donated to the cause like many people around the world. There are a lot of people that are now homeless and will need to rebuild. I’m hoping the money goes to them. Australia just needs more rain. But now it is raining and now there have been floods. I believe we need to start burning-off again yearly. Then if there are fires again, they are easily controlled because there will be less fuel burning. With the change in climatic conditions for Australia, more rain and cooler temperatures have helped slow the fires' rampage.

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Two Southern Resident killer whales off the coast of San Juan Island. Photo by YoungSeo Jo.


Uh-oh...where did the coho salmon go? by Emily Simons Southern resident killer whales, widely known as orcas, have historically been misunderstood. Killer whales get a bad rap. They're actually really intelligent, not to mention absolutely adorable. They like a salmon dinner even more than you do. People used to believe that orcas were harmful, and they were often killed in various ways. Some, for example, were used as target practice for the US Navy. After further research they were found to be a keystone species for the ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest. Similar to humans, orcas are very family oriented and stay with their mothers for life. According to Robert Davidson, an artist of the Haida people in British Columbia, "When you go underwater to visit the territory of the killer whales, it's no different from being on land, except that because you're in their world, you see them as humans." Nowadays, with only 75 individuals left, they are on the endangered species list in both the United States and Canada. With the introduction of more boats and other types of marine transportation, it has become harder for the whales to find food through echolocation, their form of communication. Since they use sound waves in the water to communicate, the inclusion of other sounds, like

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boat motors, limits the distance and effectiveness of each call.

syndrome, which kills coho salmon within one-four hours.

Not only does the noise coming from other sources affect the population of southern resident killer whales but also the depletion of local salmon populations. Coho salmon are a big part of the southern resident killer whales’ diet and are essential to the food chain. With the depletion of coho and other types of salmon, it becomes harder for the whales to find food, causing the fracturing of pods, since they have to travel long distances in order to find food.

This means that in 20 years there is a very high possibility that the wild coho salmon will become extinct, inherently affecting the Pacific Northwest orca population.

"In heavily urbanized areas like Seattle and Tacoma, it is most likely that around 90% of the adult coho salmon population will die due to large amounts of chemicals in the water." According to Dr. Edward Kolodziej from the University of Washington, fish coming in from the Pacific are found dead most likely due to urban runoff mortality

After heavy rains, chemicals from heavily used roadways are flushed into the local waterways. When tires deteriorate, the rubber particles do not just disappear, but rather run into the Puget Sound and make the water toxic to sensitive species like salmon. This chemical is called hexamethoxymethylmelamine and builds up on the roads during dry seasons, but when it rains all of the buildup drains into the Puget Sound in high concentrations. For many of the chemicals that we use in our daily lives, we have limited knowledge of what impacts they have on the environment or even on ourselves. For orcas, these chemicals have proven deadly. Check out Inkwell’s travel blog and research on the southern resident killer whales at anniewrightinkwell.org/ category/travel.

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Staying sustainable in the dorms by YoungSeo Jo Barber expressed frustrations with students that leave the heater on and open the window when it gets too Compost is only available in the dining hall for dormers. hot. “Using fossil Graphic by YoungSeo Jo. fuel to heat water, heat rooms and having the windows wide Annie Wright Schools are home to more open because it's too hot, it's not green,” than onehundred boarding students and he said. faculty. As a community, the Annie Wright dormitory aims to promote sustainability There were some ideas put forth to bebut finds various roadblocks. come more sustainable as a community. When questioned about the possibility of incentivizing sustainability in the dorms, Jeff Barber, Director of Residential Life, highlighted the challenges faced by the faculty. “I have a philosophical struggle when interacting with a group of students where you are hoping to instill values,” he said. “Contests or privileges motivate people to do it in the moment, but ultimately, what we want is sustainability to become a lifelong practice, and that’s a harder thing to get at.” Despite challenges, communal living itself has the potential to be sustainable. According to Barber, the inherent sustainability comes from sharing a living space, leading to smaller geographical footprints. This potential at Annie Wright Schools, however, is being counteracted by the old system in the building. For example, the heating system is operated via fossil fuel, which is unsustainable but the only option with the nearly 100-yearold building.

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One of the proposed plans was meatless Mondays. According to Barber, this was met with backlash from the community members. “We have a way to go before we distinguish between the subtleties of meatless Mondays and the personal desire to eat meat,” he said. For many students the urgency of sustainability isn’t as significant as other factors in students' communal lives. Barber described a certain hierarchy of needs within the dorms to further stress this point. The first and the most essential need for communal living is for members to not impinge on each other. Second is to live a healthy life. This can be observed in the lights out rule in the dorms, which ensures that students have enough sleep. Third, when the last two needs have been achieved, there is a need for a higher quality of community life: in the dorms this may come in the form of having fun activities or having good quality food.

dorms have on the external environment. “As you go up those scales, they get more subtle and difficult,” Barber said. There are still basic things that dorm students can keep in mind to be more sustainable. Barber emphasized the mindset of REUSE, REDUCE, RECYCLE, particularly in reference to online shopping. According to Barber, most dormers get the things they need via online shopping while most of the things can be bought in the weekly run to shopping centers. Another way the dormers could promote sustainability is using reusable bottles. When asked via a survey, the students also gave suggestions on how the dorms could become more sustainable. One student suggested easier access to the recycling bins by making recycling available to the second floor residence. As of now there is one bin in the basement and one in the communal student kitchen on the third floor. Another suggested that a compost bin become available to the students. As of now, composting is only accessible through the dining hall. Many of the responses indicated that the school cannot do as much as the students themselves. “I don’t think the school can do anything, because the person would have to realize that they are not living sustainably, and that comes from consciousness, so really, the only thing the dorm could do is to inform people about the importance of sustainable living habits,” said one dorm student.

Much lower in the hierarchy of needs is sustainability, being self sufficient and being conscious of the consequences the

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The debate over LNG LNG plant fuels controversy in Tacoma by Kaitlin Tan Protests against Puget Sound Energy's LNG facility have ensued in Pierce County since 2017. Photo by Grace Ritchie.

A local energy source that is considered a step forward but also a strain to sustainability is the Tacoma Puget Sound Energy (PSE) Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility. Building of the plant and use of LNG have stirred controversy among local stakeholders for more than five years. LNG is a natural gas that is made up of a mixture of predominantly methane gas and ethane gas that has been cooled down to liquid form for easy transport. Compared to other fossil fuels like coal and oil, LNG is less polluting, as it releases half of the carbon emissions. According to the Port of Tacoma’s website, “The facility will provide local transportation, including TOTE Maritime Alaska vessels, with a cleaner fuel alternative and will provide customers with dependable energy on cold days.” Inkwell spoke to President of TOTE Maritime Alaska Vessels Grace Greene about converting her vessels to LNG and the benefits of the energy source. TOTE Maritime is an anchor tenant of PSE and has the world’s first LNG-powered Marlin class container ships. The company has recently completed phase 1 out of 4 of converting their vessels to LNG. According to Greene, the switch to LNG was a no-brainer. “We had three options

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for our vessels,” she said. “The first one was to remain using diesel, which would mean letting more particulate matter… and sulfur dioxide into the air. The second one was to use exhaust scrubbers which would reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 90% and other particulate matter

"TOTE’s switch to LNG will reduce sulfur emissions by 100 percent" -Port of Tacoma "Many are unaware of the fracking processes, and deep disturbance of the earth is not good for any of us.” -Puyallup tribal council member Anna Bean

exhausts by 60-90%. The third one was to use LNG, which releases no sulfur dioxide emissions, reduces particulate matter by more than 90% and carbon emissions by 35%, and has virtually no impacts on the groundwater in Commencement Bay.”

In response to the possibility of methane leaks as a result of the LNG plant, Greene said that it would be of minimal worry, as the gas would be conveyed to TOTE via a cryogenic pipeline between the plant and TOTE’s site that safely transports the LNG. She also stated that LNG is cooled to extremely low temperatures to compress the gas, so if there were a leak, the gas would dissipate into nothing if exposed to the air. “LNG is the most environmentally responsible energy source for our vessels,” she said. Inkwell also spoke with Puyallup tribal council member Anna Bean about her concerns about the PSE LNG plant. The Puyallup tribe have long been in opposition of the LNG plant, having staged protests and rounded up supporters to write to Tacoma city council members to oppose the plant. According to Bean, the tribe’s main concerns with the LNG plant include “the lack of consultation before the project began; the permitting processes and the work done outside permitting; the location of the plant, as it is right next to their waterways,...daycares, and homes; the possibility of a methane leak; and the extra strain that it poses on the Port of Tacoma as it is already polluted and poses great threat to the Bay and salmon population.”

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Bean’s concerns of the lack of consultation before the process and permitting process stem from the history of the plant. In 2014, PSE proposed building a liquified LNG facility in the Tacoma tideflats, which triggered an environmental review from the City of Tacoma otherwise known as the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) due to the fact that the project had the potential to cause significant environmental impacts. In 2015, the final EIS was released in which the City of Tacoma commented on local environmental impacts but did not

include safety or tribal treaty rights. In 2016, PSE began construction of the LNG plant despite not having all of their environmental permits secured, and in 2017, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency issued a notice of violation to PSE for their failure to obtain a notice of construction approval prior to construction.

Bean and her tribe have been active in the community peacefully protesting against the LNG plant and spreading information to all levels of government in Pierce County. While it has not highly impacted the PSE LNG plant construction, “[the tribe’s activism] has led to shedding light on proper consultation,” she said.

Despite the advantages of using LNG, Bean said that there are misconceptions about the information conveyed about this form of energy. “[LNG] is cleaner, but by how much? Many are unaware of the fracking processes, and deep disturbance of the earth is not good for any of us,” she said.

Bean said she hopes that Tacoma looks into using renewable energy sources like solar energy as an alternative to LNG, as LNG is a non-renewable energy source. The LNG plant is scheduled to be finished in 2021.

The tipping point by Jade Cheatham

The environmental tipping point is the point at which human impact on the environment becomes so consequential that the effects of climate change are not reversible. The question, however, is how long we have to cut back on our environmental impacts, and whether we have we reached this point already. There have been many theories thrown around about when this date is. Some say the next 10 or 20 years. It is possible that we have already reached a tipping point due to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Because of the continuous debate, it is difficult to pinpoint our effect on the climate and when we need to begin changing our habits. A United Nations climate study reported that greenhouse gas emissions have reached a record high, with roughly 40.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in 2019.

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The idea of a “Tipping Point” was first introduced about 15 yeas ago by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who illustrated the idea that anthropogenic activities have the potential to push the Earth’s natural system past its equilibrium into a new one. This can be seen in collapses within some ecosystems, particularly the phenomenon of thawing ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. While these changes are significant, they may be fixable. According to Professor of Environmental Science at Tacoma Community College Ralph Hitz, “We have emitted enough carbon to initiate a change in our climate that will last many centuries. It doesn’t mean it’s permanent.” Within the natural carbon cycle, the carbon release will eventually be absorbed naturally. However, the excess carbon release will perpetuate the climate system into destabilization.

The possibility that we have already passed a tipping point is also a viable idea. “Industrialization of the developing world accelerated the rate of carbon emissions,” said Hitz. “The second half of the twentieth century, where this rapid industrialization occurred, has inevitably put us down a path of no return, so we’ve already in a sense passed a tipping point, but we can also make it even worse.” The release of carbon dioxide has continued to increase and will continue not only due to individual human impact but also by industrial impact as well. “The longer we emit excess carbon, the greater the change and longer it will last,” said Hitz.

INKWELL | MARCH 2020


Native species make your lawn truly green article and photos by Parker Briggs

You’ve algae blooms, heard of one of which the trend— in 2016 was so people profound the tearing up turquoise hue their lawns of Hood Canal to plant could be seen a garden from space. This Douglas aster is a pollinator magnet. of native algae growth, species. however, is Considering the great environmental accompanied by similarly exponential cost of traditional lawns, however, it is bacterial growth, causing an actually not that radical of an idea. ecologically catastrophic process called eutrophication, which creates oxygenAccording to a recent statistic released by devoid “dead zones” in the Sound. the EPA, the average American household uses 17,532 gallons of water annually on Native plants can help remedy this landscaping irrigation alone. To put that problem caused by lawns, as they create into perspective, that is equivalent to no such environmental degradation. nearly 11,000 toilet flushes. According to Bill Brookreson, a 13year native plant steward for the Because grass is seeded at an unnatural Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS), density, the nutrients native to the soil “Washington’s native plants have evolved are subject to rapid depletion. Lawns, over time to fit our rather unusual therefore, develop a dependence climate — the very wet winters and a on fertilizers. These fertilizers, which very dry summer.” derive much of their function from their nitrogen content, contaminate storm Brookreson went on to describe a plant’s runoff and enter local watersheds. adaptation to the local environment as a valuable asset. “Because of Ending up in Puget Sound, the nitrogen their evolution, after the plants are fuels algae growth, occasioning colorful established, they require very little water

INKWELL | MARCH 2020

if planted in appropriate conditions,” he said. “Our native plants also evolved to fit our native soils and do not require fertilizers.” There are a number of local nurseries specializing in native plants, and the movement to incorporate native flora in landscaping has been building

Native plants support pollinator insects and act as places of refuge and food for animals.

Lanceleaf coreopsis is the cousin of the prairie sunflower.

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considerable momentum over the last decade. In response to the honeybee crisis, many gardeners have opted to plant native wildflowers to support bees and other pollinators. Inkwell also spoke with Aimee Wright, publicity chair of the WNPS Whatcom County Koma Kulshan chapter, about the merits of native gardening. “Not only do native plants in private landscaping provide a low-maintenance alternative to lawns and exotic species from other areas, but they also serve many important functions for local and surrounding ecosystems,” she said.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) A common wildflower that can tolerate dry and compact soils, yarrow can be planted densely and mowed to just a few inches. Its soft, lacy leaves create a turf that from a short distance looks just like conventional grass, but is softer to walk on and requires none of the chemicals.

Douglas & New England Aster (Aster subspicatus & Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) Both species of aster form small bushes that from late July through October are covered in small purple daisy-like flowers. A favorite of bees, aster is a hardy, independent plant that can add color to a patch of grasses.

“Because they already thrive in our climate, Large-leaved lupine is easily recognizable by its lance-like flower heads. native plants are less likely to need pesticides or herbicides, which means less in Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana) our water and the surrounding landscape,” Wright continued. Sorrel is a shade-loving, clover-like groundcover, which, though “Native plants also support native pollinator insects, and they native, spreads like a weed, quickly adding verdure to any act as places of refuge and food for animals, like birds. In a adjacent open soil. Named oxalis due to its content of oxalic world where so many wild places are becoming smaller and acid, its leaves lend a lemony bite to a spring salad. farther apart, native plant gardens serve as bridges between wild areas certain animals need in order to thrive.”

Large-Leaved Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus)

How can you join the growing movement to plant native flora? You do not have to completely re-landscape your yard to make a difference. Here are a variety of easily obtainable, hardy, and attractive native perennials that you can add to your yard.

With tall, spear-shaped flowerheads, lupine can easily add a conspicuous measure of dark purple to a garden. No specimen for the manicured English garden, this plant has a distinctly rugged charm, with its thick flower stem growing up to 5 feet tall, and its umbrella-like leaves branching any which way they choose.

Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis) A good replacement for the exotic fescue species commonly planted in lawns, Idaho fescue is tall, relatively erect, and stately bunchgrass that varies from green to brown after late spring, and green to blue as it produces new growth earlier in the season.

Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) With golden yellow flowers straight off an oilcloth print, lanceleaf coreopsis stands out among native plants, having the rustic, disheveled charm of a dandelion, and the cheerfulness of its distant cousin the sunflower. Yarrow's flat white flowers spring from its base of soft, lacy leaves.